Raymond Felton's Injury Paves Way for Jason Kidd to Lead New York Knicks

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Raymond Felton's Injury Paves Way for Jason Kidd to Lead New York Knicks
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Raymond Felton has never looked more like Amar'e Stoudemire.

After playing through a vast array of injuries, physical afflictions have finally gotten the best of the New York Knicks point guard.

According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Felton has a fracture in his right pinkie that will likely require surgery and keep him out of the lineup for more than a month:

Felton took the X-ray of his shooting hand at halftime after sitting out last night. He injured the pinkie fighting for a loose ball with the Lakers’ Steve Nash. Felton will fly to New York tomorrow and see a hand specialist to confirm the next course of action, a Knicks official said.

"I may need surgery," Felton said. "I got to do what’s best for my hand so I can get back and help this team."

Traditionally, on a historically old team such as the Knicks, the absence of Felton's speed and relentless rim attack would be cause for panic, much like the trepidation that ensues every time Carmelo Anthony hits the floor.

But these Knicks don't have to worry. Not much anyway.

Why?

Because of Jason Kidd. And no, I'm not kidding.

USA TODAY Sports
Felton may be out, but the Knicks can rest easy knowing they have Kidd.

Though Kidd was brought into New York under the pretense that he would be mentoring Jeremy Lin or just backing up the point guard position in general, he has been nothing short of instrumental for the Knicks.

Not only has Kidd become a fixture in the starting lineup, but he is averaging 8.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, four assists and 1.9 steals per game en route to posting a 17.7 PER. He's also shooting a career-best 45 percent from beyond the arc.

As always, I feel the need to put what could be interpreted as pedestrian numbers into context: Of all players in the NBA, just seven are averaging at least eight points, four rebounds, four assists and 1.5 steals per game.

One of them is Kidd. The others include James Harden, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry.

Moreover, not one of the other six players is older than 26. Kidd is 39.

Impressed?

I'd be concerned if you weren't.

Great shot by J.R. Smith on the heels of a great pass by Kidd.

Obviously, to go as far as calling Felton's injury a blessing in disguise is an outrageous stretch. That said, the Knicks can—for a change—rest easy knowing that they're in some of the most capable hands the Association has to offer.

I get that Kidd has missed four games already this season, and I also understand that playing 29.7 minutes per game takes a toll on someone his age. But what we all must comprehend is how profound an impact he has had on this team.

With Kidd on the floor, New York is scoring at a rate of 114.3 points per 100 possessions, a number that drops to 110.3 upon his departure. 

A huge difference?

Not exactly, but bear in mind that when the Knicks—down Felton, 'Melo and everyone else under the sun—squandered a 14-point lead against the Phoenix Suns, Kidd was on the bench. It was when he came back that New York settled down, took care of the ball and willed its way to victory.

That's what Kidd does. He leads by example; he leads by doing everything. From a deflected pass in crunch time to a precisely placed inbound bounce pass, he does it all.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Kidd has helped 'Melo evolve as both a player and a person.

Just ask the oft-considered point guard killer himself, Carmelo Anthony.

Kidd has impacted 'Melo more than anyone else on the Knicks roster, something Anthony himself (via Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com) would be the first to admit:

His team was down five early in the fourth quarter of a recent game against the Denver Nuggets, so Mike Woodson's first thought, naturally, was to put the ball in Carmelo Anthony's hands.

But Anthony, the NBA's second-leading scorer, had a different idea.

"I wanted to go through Jason," Anthony said.

Let that sink in. And let it sink in some more because it's surreal.

Never before has Anthony been so willing to defer; never has he been so trusting of someone else having the ball in his hands.

But as Begley goes on to explain, that's just the kind of impact Kidd has had on one of the best scorers in the league:

"I'm just trying to help my guys win," (Kidd) says.

But that's an understatement. In addition to helping the Knicks take care of the ball, he has also helped Anthony evolve as a player.

The Knicks' star is a more willing passer, more adept at punishing teams for doubling him, and he gives an honest day's effort on the defensive end. Teammates have quietly credited Kidd for part of Anthony's evolution.

Allowing this to sink in as well would be a good idea.

Kidd isn't just some 39-year-old point man turning back the clock or playing over his head. He's the forerunner of New York's resurgence and of 'Melo's progression. He's a beacon of hope in what has gradually become a dark hour.

Yes, the Knicks have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and are playing the best basketball the franchise has seen in decades. But they're also overwhelmingly battered.

Heading into New York's game against Phoenix, the Knicks had five players on the injured list. Four of those—Felton, Anthony, Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert—are arguably starters.

Al Bello/Getty Images
Life without Felton is possible because of Kidd.

So let's not attempt to downplay the effect Kidd has had on these Knicks, the effect he continues to have.

Will the Knicks continue to win in excess with Jason Kidd at the helm while Raymond Felton is out?

Submit Vote vote to see results

New York wouldn't be in such good standing despite excessive bouts with injury if it weren't for him. The Knicks wouldn't be in a position to contend if it weren't for him. Anthony wouldn't have morphed into an MVP-esque talent and personality if it weren't for him.

Life without Felton wouldn't be possible if it weren't for him.

"It's been beautiful to watch," coach Mike Woodson said of Kidd. "I'm just happy that he's a part of our franchise."

Given all that Kidd has done and all that he stands to still do, that may be the understatement of the year.

 

*All stats in this article are accurate as of December 26, 2012.

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